Auxiliary Reference Information | Sewing | Seams

It’s important for a quick and easy sew to ensure that the pattern you cut the fabric from has had all darts and seams trued up prior to sewing or after any seam allowances have been added for Flexible Patterns. Refer to Auxiliary Reference information for Trueing a Draft.


Also prior to following this unit it is a good idea to review the Auxiliary Reference Information for Pressing with an Iron as pressing will be required after Thread Tracing, and after sewing each seam.


A Thread Traced Seam


If you have already Thread Traced the sewing lines onto the fabric, usually for a Test Garment then joining seams up is much easier. You will need your pins and also your Fork pins handy.

Place the two fabric pieces right sides together and line up the pieces along the sewing lines.










If there is a Guideline or a perpendicular seam or a notch somewhere along the pieces I will pin this first. Peak between the seams to check that the sewing line and the Guidelines line up exactly.



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Pin a Fork pin through the area straggling either side of the Guideline or seam or Notch.



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You can open up the wide end to peek inside if you need to ensure that everything is perfectly aligned.

This is the only way I have found to create a perfect joining of perpendicular seams on a sewing line, I use these pins in quilting for this purpose so it makes sense to use them to construct garments.


Next place a pin exactly through the end of the sewing line for the line you need to sew.











Then take the pin immediately through the same point on the fabric underneath and bring the pin back up.


I usually try to bring the pin back up through the perpendicular sewing line to keep the angle of the pieces correct.

This is the Back view of the pinned fabric.













Do the same thing at the other end.





Then by feeling the seams together along pin at intervals about every 2”.







I pin perpendicular to the sewing line so that I can easily remove the pins as I sew. Getting into this habit is particularly good for when you have to sew curved seams together e.g. Princess Seams, especially on a large bust. ​​

This is the back view. ​​





At the sewing machine position the fabric under the needle at the edge of the seam allowance in line with the sewing line and I always sew a couple of stitches then back stitch a couple of stitches to secure the stitching at the beginning. Sew down the seam carefully removing the pins as you go.

I never sew over pins except for Fork pins, I always sew very slowly and carefully over these, which is very naughty I know but I have never broke a needle and getting a perfectly lined up seam junction is worth the risk I think!

I will also backstitch at the very end of the sewing line in the seam allowance and then pull out the piece of work from the sewing machine.







Remove the Fork pin and have a look on the inside to see how well you lined up the Guidelines or the perpendicular seams.






With Seam Allowance

If you have Seam Allowances on your fabric pieces, usually for a Flexible Pattern then you will need to check the pattern and the Pattern Record Card to ensure that you know the size of the Seam Allowance that you need to sew on the particular Seam you are working on.


Sometimes Seam Allowances differ by piece and also on the same sewing line the allowances can be different.


You will need your pins and also your Fork pins handy.

  1. Place the two fabric pieces right sides together and line up the pieces along the edge of the fabric.

  2. If there is a Guideline or a perpendicular seam or a notch somewhere along the pieces I will pin this first. Peak between the seams to check that the sewing line and the Guidelines line up exactly and pin a Fork pin through the area straggling either side of the Guideline or seam or Notch. You can open up the wide end to peek inside if you need to ensure that everything is perfectly aligned.

  3. Next pin the two pieces of fabric together at one end of the fabric.

  4. Do the same thing at the other end.

  5. Then pin perpendicular to the edge of the fabric all the way down the edge every 2” or so which will make it easy to remove the pins as you sew. Getting into this habit is particularly good for when you have to sew curved seams together e.g. Princess Seams, especially on a large bust.

  6. Check your sewing machine so that you know which indicator you need to follow when sewing to ensure you get an accurate Seam Allowance for the measurement that you are using for this seam.

  7. At the sewing machine position the fabric under needle with the edge of the fabric at the correct marked point on the machine for the seam allowance that you need to sew.

  8. Sew down the seam carefully removing the pins as you go. I never sew over pins except for Fork pins, I always sew very slowly and carefully over these.

  9. I will also backstitch at the very end of the sewing line in the seam allowance and then pull out the piece of work from the sewing machine.

  10. Remove the Fork pin and have a look on the inside to see how well you lined up the Guidelines or the perpendicular seams.

Sewing Curved Seams

You would sew a curved seam in the same way as sewing a seam as shown above but sew a little more slowly and carefully. You may need to add in extra pins around the curve to ensure that the curves align perfectly. If the sewing lines have slipped after sewing unpick it and try adding more pins, or there may be some strain on the seam which is pulling one side away. To reduce any strain clip at intervals from the edge of the fabric to the sewing line and if it opens up then you will have released some strain.


This picture shows an unusually shaped hip which will need resolving on fitting, clipping is required to enable pressing the seam to be a little easier until the issue is resolved.







Clipping at intervals can reduce the stress further, the measurement between gaps can differ depending on the curve and the strain issue.


This photo shows a curved seam that requires multiple snips at about ½” apart can you see how gaps form as the snips are made and the fabric relaxes. Also in this photo the other side of the seam has been snipped as well and the position of these cuts have not been made in the same position as the other side, can you see that the cuts are staggered, this helps to spread the bulk of the seam allowance across the seam.

A Princess Seam is a good example of how to sew a curved seam. You need to deal with a situation where a curved seam is being sewn into a straighter seam or if the Princess line is to the Armhole then you will be sewing a concave and convex seam together.


This is a photo of a Princess Seam from a Base Template draft for a G cup bust, which is why the curve is low in the pattern.







Just like sewing any seam start with lining up any Guideline or notches and pinning with a Fork pin in order to fix the position, in this case the position of the Bust Point. Pin at the end then feeling the sewing lines pin the remaining seam together.


Pinning a curved seam can be tricky, you need to ensure that you spread the fabric evenly across the seam.







I think it helps if you mould the seam over your fingers to allow the curve to naturally drop into place.








Continue pinning until the full seam is pinned.







This photo shows that after pining there is some straining happening in the fabric below. Although I try not to snip prior to sewing, if straining is happening it is better to relax it so that fabric does not pull away from the pinned mark as you remove pins during sewing as you will miss the mark with the sewing line. So it’s a good idea to snip down to the sewing line until you think that the straining has been removed.

Sewing a Seam with Ease

If you have made your pattern yourself you will know if you have any ease to deal with in the seam but usually with a correctly fitted pattern you won’t need to do this so much. However there may be times when you have added ease on purpose for example in the back of the shoulder for a jacket or in a sleeve head to make the sleeve stand away from the shoulder as a design feature.


In this case you may have added extra notches to show where any extra ease needs to be placed and outside of the notches you would sew the seam as usual.


If there is little ease to take up you can pin the centre of the seam and spread the extra across the area by pinning in the middle again (between the outer and middle pins), then pin in the middle of those pins. When sewing then you would keep the excess fabric on the top so that you can see the effect of pushing any ease under the needle as you sew.


With a larger amount of ease then you may need to gather the fabric first and then pin the fabric into place. Refer to Auxiliary Information for Stitch Types to review how to do Gathering Stitches.


Grading seams

After you have sewn a Seam sometimes you may need to remove some bulk for example you may not need the full Seam Allowance used when adding a Waistband to the top of the skirt you might want to trim it down. One thing you can do to trim the bulk down even further is to trim one side of the Seam Allowance slightly shorter than the other side. The difference between the two widths of the seams does not have to be much and you can do this in one step rather than cutting the two seams separately. If you lay your seams down flat on the table and then hold your scissors almost flat when you cut. By holding the scissors flat you allow the bottom seam to be cut slightly larger than the top seam.


Types of Seam Finishes

After spending lots of time getting the right fit and positioning a sewing line in the exact position you need to protect it. Seam Allowances can just be left as they are but you risk the fabric fraying and exposing the stitching line not to mention the mess that may be created with laundering on those unprotected Seams.


There are a number of methods that can be used to protect a Seam and they can be applied either before sewing the Seam or afterwards, when trying to decide what method to use keep in mind that you are protecting the sewing line so this always takes priority.


Your fabric choice is going to have a big impact on how you decide to finish off edges on a Seam and indeed may even define how large your Seam Allowances are going to be set at.

Here are a few options that you could consider using;

  • Cut with Pinking shears – this creates a zig zag cut line down the seam and can stop fabric fraying and as you are not adding anything onto a seam can be a light weight option to seam finishing so useful for linings.

  • Overlock stitching – either by machine on an overlocker or a sewing machine using a zig zag stitch along the edge. A more controlled and couture way to finish by overlocking would be to do it by hand using an Overlock Stitch.

  • Hong Kong Finish – This is where a Binding is used to encase the edges of a Seam Allowance, the resulting bound seams can be placed inside or outside the. This method is done prior to construction therefore will work better on a garment that has been fitted and has thread tracing to denote the stitching line. The binding is simply sewn onto the seam with fabric posterior side up and Binding Anterior side down and sewn ¼” from the edge. It is then pressed upwards and folded to the anterior side to make a ¼” sized Binding. The Binding is pinned in place and with posterior side up stitched in the ditch (in the Seam) to secure the binding, the excess binding on the anterior side is then trimmed away. Once the Seam is sewn and pressed you can stitch back down the ditch through all fabric to secure the Seam Allowance down.

  • French Seams – Is where raw edges are enclosed into a seam making any additional finishing unnecessary. On the anterior the seam looks like any other on the posterior it looks like a tuck. To stitch it you would place the wrong sides of the fabric together matching the edges and stitch ¼” from the edge, the seam is pressed open and the Seam Allowances are trimmed to half the size. The seam is then folded the opposite way so that the anterior sides are now together and the Seam is pressed out to the edge. A final row of stitching ¼” from the edge will enclose all of the raw edges. A French seam is best used on straight seams it can be a difficult seam to get right on a curve due to the bulk.




Unpicking Seams

Seams do need to be accurately sewn. If you sew every seam inaccurately then you are increasing the garment size which is especially a problem on a tailored garment.


If you find that you have missed the mark, then simply unpick it and resew it. Yes it takes time but we are looking to make a quality garment.






After all it is not usually the whole seam that you will need to resew, it can take 5 mins to unpick and resew a section to get it right. You will be pleased that you did it I am sure.







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